READ: Full Transcript Of Maurizio Sarri’s Press Conference Ahead Of Chelsea’s Premier League Clash With Tottenham

What’s the latest team news?

“No big problems. As usual after the national teams, there are some little problems. Some with little injuries, some a little bit tired. Fortunately, we don’t have big problems. Kovacic is doing better. He had an ankle problem, but he is doing better yesterday in training with the team. And so I think that he will be able to play.”

Delighted with the new Kante deal?

“N’Golo, for us, is not just an important player. He’s a determinate player for us. So I’m really happy with the new contract. Clearly very pleased for him. And it’s a very important news, I think. I know that David [Luiz] told something about him, that he doesn’t want to pay the bill in the restaurant. So he has a flaw like everybody. But I think he is a really professional player, very professional on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Is there more to come from him?

“He’s very important for us in the defensive phase, but he is improving in the offensive movements. Now he has to improve in the last 25m. He can score more.”

Any news on a new Hazard deal?

“No, Eden, I don’t know the evolution of the deal, for the new contract, but he’s very well. Fortunately, he played the last match with the national team on Sunday, so he was here on Tuesday. For us, that’s very important. I don’t know the evolution of the new contract, but I think we can do [it].”

Very hopeful?

“I hope so. I hope so.”

How. impressed have you been with Mauricio Pochettino’s job at Spurs?

“He has done a very good job. They play very good football. They are very dangerous, very dangerous in the offensive phase, very dangerous in the short counter-attacks. They are a technical team. In the match, they run a lot, too. From a physical point of view, they are a strong team. They are competitive.

“They will fight for the Champions League positions, for sure, so it’s a very difficult match. We must be careful not to lose the ball in our half, because they are very dangerous in these situations.”

Can they win the title?

“I think that, at the moment, in the Premier League there is a team above the others. This team is Manchester City. Then there is a very good team, Liverpool. For sure, they will be in the first four positions. Then there are four or five teams who will have to fight for the Champions League places: Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, United, maybe somebody else. Usually in a season there is a surprise.”

So Chelsea can’t challenge Manchester City?

“No, at the moment, no. For me, they are stronger than us at the moment. We have to work, we have to work very hard just to try to recover the gap. But, at the moment, the gap is still there.”

Can the players you have close the gap?

“We have to do it. We have to do it. We can recover, but I don’t think that, in the first season, we will be able to recover 30 points.”

Why have you started games badly?

“I think it’s a mental problem. In the last three matches, we had problems with the approach to the match. Not only that, because we had some problems also in the beginning of the second half. So we have to be careful. We have to be focused on this problem.”

Is it mental problem?

“For sure, it’s not a physical problem because, in the last part of the match, we ran a lot, I think. It’s not a physical problem. It’s a mental problem. We have some difficulties to enter into the match.”

So are the players struggling to understand what you want from them?

“No, it’s not a tactical problem. Because in the first 15 minutes in the last three matches, the problem was the opponents were more aggressive, more determined than us. So it’s not a tactical or physical problem. We have to approach the match in a different way, for application and determination.”

You have a very busy schedule coming up…

“I think it was difficult from September until now, also. Because we played every three days, and then 10 days with 14, 15, 16 players with the national teams. So it wasn’t easy.

“December and January will be a very difficult period because we have to play every three days. I don’t know. Maybe the rotation of the players will be different, of course.”

Spurs have had injury problems with World Cup players, you haven’t as much. Why is that?

“I think that we problems with individual training, because it’s very difficult to train in the actual situation. The problem is there are some players, the very important players, that have to play 70-75 matches in a season.

“So it’s a big problem, especially for teams like us who have about 16 players in the national teams. It’s a big problem. I think we need to reorganise the football.

“Because, at the moment, it’s very difficult for a player to be in good condition for 75 matches, and very difficult for a team to let rest a player like Messi for Barcelona, or Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus, or Mbappe and Neymar for PSG. So it’s a big problem for modern football.”

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